definition: par•a•digm (pār'ə-dīm', -dĭm')

3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this blog is four-fold:
to recognize that every person functions within a basic paradigm, which affects how all information is processed;
(2) to understand the paradigms of others;
(3) to discuss, in particular, paradigms which are related to science, religion, and philosophy.

(4) to reveal the paradigm shifts in my own life, a process that has completely changed the direction and purpose of my existence.

The purpose of this blog is NOT to convince anyone that their paradigms or beliefs are correct or incorrect. I am hoping for an honest dialog, but the discussions must remain respectful of others, even if there is profound disagreement. If any comments are not respectful, they will be removed.
(Revised 1/13/09)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Separation of Church and State: How separate?

Rather than put labels on groups, I am going to call one Group A and one, B. People in Group A think that it is wrong to bring any mention of religion into government. People in Group B think that, because religion directs their sense of right and wrong, it is impossible to separate religion from the moral directives that form the basis for legislation. A Group B person in government might say that he cannot separate himself from his faith, so faith has to influence his governmental decisions. However, a Group A person in government would probably say that leaders should uphold what the people democratically decide, regardless of whether they believe it personally or not. A Group B person thinks that the First Ammendment says only that government cannot restrict the practice of one's religion, nor set up a "state religion." However, it makes no prohibition in the other direction: on religion influencing government. A Group A person thinks that the influence should not go in either direction--government should not influence religion and religion should not influence government. Comments, anyone?.........


Dr. T said...

The people in group A are naive at best -- dishonest at worst. There are quite a few issues being brought up here. I'll tackle the simplest one first: representative democracy. In a representative democracy, you are not elected to represent the majority opinion of your constituents on each issue. Why have representatives, then? Just have a democracy. The idea behind representative democracy is that you are supposed to, as a candidate, present a package. Your package is supposed to be based on your knowledge of the issues and how to solve them (ideally, though it doesn't always work out). If people like the package, they elect you. If you deliver, the reelect you. So the second part of the argument shows that group A is ignorant of how representative democracy works.

Now to tackle the first part -- the issue of the relationship between religion and government. Historically, there has been no separation. This has caused many problems, not the least of which being people were not allowed to follow their conscience. That is why the 1st Amendment to the Constitution makes it clear that the government cannot set up a state religion. Please note that it does not state anywhere that people cannot bring their religion to Washington, or that they can't allow their religious beliefs to influence their decisions. It simply states that the government cannot set up a state religion. In the body of the Constitution, it does say that the government cannot set up any sort of religious test for office, but that again is a way of preventing the state from setting up a state religion.

To address the issue more broadly, group A is ignorant of the fact that religion and ethics are completely intertwined in the human mind. There is no separating them for humans. That religion may be in the more traditional vein -- Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. -- but there are also secular forms, such as Marxism and various other philosophies. And Marxism is certainly a religion. There is a founding prophet, religious texts, the fundamental precepts cannot be questioned, and only initiates truly understand the great and wonderful truth given us by the founder. And once it is set up as the state religion, nonbelievers are inevitably slaughtered. There is even a promised heaven -- the Communist stateless utopia at the End of History. It is not uncommon for atheists to immediately pick up on such secular religions -- Sartre was a Marxist, for example. So since humans are fundamentally religious in nature, and we weave together religion and ethics, there is and cannot be any real separation between the two. Thus, to try to make such a separation is impossible. All we can ever really do is choose among religions and morals -- we cannot choose a neutral ground. The best we can do is prevent any one religion from taking over the government and imposing its morals on everyone. People must be allowed to be free to vote their consciences.

soulandsubstance said...

There are two paradigms here:

(1) A person in Group B cannot separate his religious convictions from his daily life; hence, it is impossible to conceive of any workplace, government included, where every aspect of his work was not influenced by his faith. Things that a Group B person thinks are morally wrong are the same things that his belief system says are spiritually wrong. It would be impossible to vote in favor of any legislation which permitted these things. The paradigm here is that morality is belief-driven, not culture-driven. It would not matter if the cultural mores said that an action was acceptable if, to the Group B person, it is unacceptable.

(2) A person in Group A, however, tends to accept what is considered "normal" by society. Right and wrong are relative, rather than absolute values and the rational human mind is supreme in its ability to judge them. When there is conflict, it is generally resolved in a "democratic" sort of way. There is usually minimal conflict between religious beliefs and how government should be run because religious beliefs evolve as culture evolves. The paradigm here is that morality is culture-driven, not belief-driven. For this person, changes in culture cause changes in moral values, which then influence how government is managed. However, since government and culture are virtually indistinguishable, there is really no need to insist on true separation of church and state--Only the mechanics need to be separated, since similar moral standards drive them both.

Dr. T said...

Religion is part of culture. There's no separation, then among ethics, culture, and religion. Insofar as the laws passed by government tell us what we can and cannot do, there is an ethical element to them as well. Thus, in reality, there is and cannot be a true separation among ethics, culture, religion, and government. All are deeply intertwined. However, Nietzsche observed (rightly, I believe) that the stronger government is, the weaker culture is, while the weaker government is, the stronger culture is.

wala said...

One of the basic elements of democracy is that the minority’s rights are not a subject to a public vote because a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority.
The rights in the civilized societies were found to protect the minorities from oppression by the majorities.
because the opinion of the majority are not always right and a system built on these opinion is called Fascism or Nazism, as every one knows that the opinion of the majority of the German people were convinced that Hitler’s ideology was right and that if you aren’t Arian then you are a lower human being and then the Jewish minority were forced to follow the majority opinions and get killed.
It was only genetic science that held the undeniable evidence that the genes that control your racial color are totally separate from the set of genes that control the mental abilities.
it is not necessary to have a state religion to have a moral code, there is a lot of moral theories that is built on pure logic and reasonable thinking unlike the divine command moral theory that is based on the Jesus fairy tale, go and study altruism, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, natural law theory, ethical egoism and the social contract theory.
And if you want living successful examples of the separation then look at Switzerland, Holland, Cyprus and Turkey.
Not to mention the many years of failure of religious civilizations, so please doctor T go read more about democracy first because when you elect your next president then you have elected who you think he can serve the constitution better not a package of a new constitution, the constitution that if not for it we wouldn’t have the chance to go through this discussion and my head would be on a pole for not believing in your at best naive or at worst dishonest believes.
M.Wael Alkel